Cities mark Hiroshima Day with urgent calls to abolish nuclear weapons
August 6, 2017 Hiroshima Day remembrance on New Haven Green. Photo by Art Perlo.

Cities across the country and the world are stepping up their calls for abolition of nuclear weapons in commemoration of the 72nd anniversary of the horrific bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The bombings, which obliterated both cities and have had tragic and lasting effects, took place on August 6 and 9, 1945.

In New Haven, a silent vigil was held on the New Haven Green where a proclamation by Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui was read. Matsui warned against the “inhumanity of nuclear weapons,” saying that the “hell” wrought by the bomb could happen again unless nuclear weapons are abolished (full text below).

On July 7, the United Nations adopted a global Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons. Over 122 countries took part in negotiations and voted for this legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. The U.S., the only country that has dropped an atomic bomb on a populace, opposes the treaty and boycotted the negotiations along with other nuclear weapons countries.

Mayor Matsui, also president of Cities for Peace, which includes 7,124 municipalities in 162 countries, greeted the U.N. decision, saying that “Reliance on nuclear weapons is not only useless for solving current challenges of international security, but will also endanger the survival of the entire human species. The entire world community, therefore, needs to cooperate and work together to ensure that the new treaty will become a fully effective legal instrument to achieve nuclear abolition.”

One week earlier, the U.S. Conference of Mayors had unanimously adopted a resolution welcoming the U.N. negotiations and calling on our government to engage in “intense diplomatic efforts with Russia, China, North Korea and other nuclear-armed states and their allies, and to work with Russia to dramatically reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.” (www.usmayors.org)

In addition, the resolution welcomed declarations adopted by five municipalities, including New Haven, “urging Congress to cut military spending and redirect funding to meet human and environmental needs.”

The final resolve by the U.S. Conference of Mayors was to call on the president and Congress “to reverse federal spending priorities and to redirect funds currently allocated to nuclear weapons and unwarranted military spending to restore full funding for Community Block Development Grants and the Environmental Protection Agency, to create jobs by rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and to ensure basic human services for all, including education, environmental protection, food assistance, housing and health care.”

Participants at the vigil in New Haven, initiated by the City of New Haven Peace Commission and the Greater New Haven Peace Council, signed letters to U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, calling on them to support a shift in funding from military to human needs in the current budget fight.

The full text of Mayor Matsui’s Hiroshima Day Declaration follows:

“Friends, 72 years ago today, on August 6, at 8:15 a.m., absolute evil was unleashed in the sky over Hiroshima. Let’s imagine for a moment what happened under that roiling mushroom cloud. Pika—the penetrating flash, extreme radiation and heat. Don—the earth-shattering roar and blast. As the blackness lifts, the scenes emerging into view reveal countless scattered corpses charred beyond recognition even as man or woman. Stepping between the corpses, badly burned, nearly naked figures with blackened faces, singed hair, and tattered, dangling skin wander through spreading flames, looking for water. The rivers in front of you are filled with bodies; the riverbanks so crowded with burnt, half-naked victims you have no place to step. This is truly hell. Under that mushroom cloud, the absolutely evil atomic bomb brought gruesome death to vast numbers of innocent civilians and left those it didn’t kill with deep physical and emotional scars, including the aftereffects of radiation and endless health fears. Giving rise to social discrimination and prejudice, it devastated even the lives of those who managed to survive.

“This hell is not a thing of the past. As long as nuclear weapons exist and policymakers threaten their use, their horror could leap into our present at any moment. You could find yourself suffering their cruelty.

“This is why I ask everyone to listen to the voices of the hibakusha. A man who was 15 at the time says, ‘When I recall the friends and acquaintances I saw dying in those scenes of hell, I can barely endure the pain.’ Then, appealing to us all, he asks, ‘To know the blessing of being alive, to treat everyone with compassion, love and respect—are these not steps to world peace?’

“Another hibakusha who was 17 says, ‘I ask the leaders of the nuclear-armed states to prevent the destruction of this planet by abandoning nuclear deterrence and abolishing immediately all atomic and hydrogen bombs. Then they must work wholeheartedly to preserve our irreplaceable Earth for future generations.’

“Friends, this appeal to conscience and this demand that policymakers respond conscientiously are deeply rooted in the hibakusha experience. Let’s all make their appeal and demand our own, spread them throughout the world, and pass them on to the next generation.

“Policymakers, I ask you especially to respect your differences and make good-faith efforts to overcome them. To this end, it is vital that you deepen your awareness of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, consider the perspectives of other countries, and recognize your duty to build a world where we all thrive together.

“Civil society fully understands that nuclear weapons are useless for national security. The dangers involved in controlling nuclear materials are widely understood. Today, a single bomb can wield thousands of times the destructive power of the bombs dropped 72 years ago. Any use of such weapons would plunge the entire world into hell, the user as well as the enemy. Humankind must never commit such an act. Thus, we can accurately say that possessing nuclear weapons means nothing more than spending enormous sums of money to endanger all humanity.

“Peace Memorial Park is now drawing over 1.7 million visitors a year from around the world, but I want even more visitors to see the realities of the bombing and listen to survivor testimony. I want them to understand what happened under the mushroom cloud, take to heart the survivors’ desire to eliminate nuclear weapons and broaden the circle of empathy to the entire world. In particular, I want more youthful visitors expanding the circle of friendship as ambassadors for nuclear abolition. I assure you that Hiroshima will continue to bring people together for these purposes and inspire them to take action.

“Mayors for Peace, led by Hiroshima, now comprises over 7,400 city members around the world. We work within civil society to create an environment that helps policymakers move beyond national borders to act in good faith and conscience for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

“In July, when 122 United Nations members, not including the nuclear-weapon and nuclear-umbrella states, adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, they demonstrated their unequivocal determination to achieve abolition. Given this development, the governments of all countries must now strive to advance further toward a nuclear-weapon-free world.

“The Japanese Constitution states, ‘We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources.’ Therefore, I call especially on the Japanese government to manifest the pacifism in our constitution by doing everything in its power to bridge the gap between the nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states, thereby facilitating the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. I further demand more compassionate government assistance to the hibakusha, whose average age is now over 81, and to the many others also suffering mentally and physically from the effects of radiation, along with expansion of the ‘black rain areas.’

“We offer heartfelt prayers for the repose of the atomic bomb victims and pledge to work with the people of the world to do all in our power to bring lasting peace and free ourselves from the absolute evil that is nuclear weapons.”

 

 


CONTRIBUTOR

Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.

 

 

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